Plight of the bumblebee

Some hopeful buzz. The rusty patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis) was added to the endangered species list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on Tuesday, according to the New York Times. The first bumblebee ever to be granted “endangered” status, rusty patched will be protected for years to come and even as administrations change (as long as the Endangered Species Act remains intact).

Rusty patched will be protected for years to come.

As Matt Kelly reported in November, advocacy groups have been working to get the bee on the list for years. Rusty’s well-documented decline has surpassed 85 percent of the population, with the “most precipitous” drop happening sometime between 1991 and 2009 .

Now that the bee is protected under the Endangered Species Act, the next step is for USFWS to settle on a recovery plan. After that’s established, other federal agencies will have to double-check to make sure their actions won’t hurt the bees or interfere with the plan.

We still don’t know exactly why bee populations are crashing. Researchers think the cause is likely a combination of harmful pesticides, habitat fragmentation, and harmful parasites. The recovery plan will try to address these issues, and the resulting measures will likely make life easier for other pollinators as well.

H. Claire Brown is a senior staff writer for The Counter. Her work has also appeared in The Atlantic, The Guardian, and The Intercept and has won awards from the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, the New York Press Club, the Newswomen's Club of New York, and others. A North Carolina native, she now lives in Brooklyn.